249 May 8, 2008 A Special Meeting of the Board of Education, Township of Woodbridge, was held on May, 8, 2008, at 7:00 p.m., at Mawbey Street School #1, Mawbey Street, Woodbridge, New Jersey. The meeting opened with the Salute to the Flag and a moment of silence. The President, Brian Molnar presided. Board members present: Diane Acquisto, Thomas “Skip” Garley, Pat Hardiman, Judy Leidner, Lawrence Miloscia, Brian Small, George Yuhasz, Brian Molnar. Lewis Huber was absent. Board personnel present: Barbara DeRollo. Newspaper Reporters Present:
Cathy Cheng, The Sentinel Alyssa Giachino, The Home News Tribune
Board President, Brian Molnar, read the following statement regarding the Open Public Meetings Law: "The New Jersey Open Public Meetings Law was enacted to insure the right of the public to have advance notice of and to attend the meetings of public bodies at which any business affecting their interest is discussed or acted upon. In accordance with the provisions of this act, the Board of Education had caused notice of these meetings to be published by having the date, time and place, thereof, posted as follows: April 30, 2008:
Faxed to Home News Tribune and Star Ledger Hand delivered to Municipal Clerk Posted in Avenel Middle School. Mawbey Street School #1 and the Board of Education Administration Building."
Mr. Molnar welcomed everyone to the public forum. He stated the only issue to be discussed at this forum would be the upcoming Superintendent’s search. Mr. Molnar further stated the town style meeting is being held in order to get the public’s point of view. He stated he wants to know what type of candidate the public is looking for, salary suggestions and what direction the public wants the Board to move in. P. Lattanzio, Fords, stated choosing a Superintendent is a momentous decision for the Board of Education. He stated he spent 40 years in education, with the last 25 as Superintendent of Schools. Mr. Lattanzio asked if a search will be conducted through NJSBA or NJASA and if a public forum would then be established for public questions as well. Mr. Molnar stated a Committee of the Board has been established, consisting of Judy Leidner, Diane Acquisto and George Yuhasz. Mr. Molnar stated he spoke to the Business Administrator in Cranford and was advised that they are not including the public in any portion of their search. Mr. Molnar stated prior to posting the position, the Committee will meet to discuss all the public input received at this forum. Mr. Molnar stated Cranford posted the position in major newspapers which resulted in 43 applicants. Mr. Molnar stated a Superintendent search through NJSBA will cost approximately $6,500 plus the cost of advertisements. (D. Culovich), Woodbridge, stated she would like to see someone who as been a teacher for a number of years as well as service in an administrative position. She also feels the candidates should be familiar with the township. B. Dziedzic, Port Reading, asked if the Board is planning on hiring a consultant to conduct the search. Mr. Molnar stated at this point, the Board has not considered hiring a consultant. He further stated NJSBA serves as consultants by putting together the paperwork. Mr. Dziedzic stated he feels it is a waste of money to hire a consultant. He stated he thinks the Board needs to consider candidates within the district as well as outside the district. He urged the Board not to hire a consultant. Ms. Leidner stated NJSBA facilitated the last Superintendent’s search. She stated they put together the paperwork, scheduled the meetings, worked directly with Angel Korodan, the Administrative representative at the time, at a cost of $5,000 to $6,000. Ms. Leidner stated the ultimate choice is the
250 May 8, 2008 Board’s. She stated the Board can save the taxpayer’s money by facilitating the search themselves by using the manual received from NJSBA. Ms. Leidner stated it will be an aggressive schedule since she is hopeful to have the position filled by mid August, not only because school will be starting in September but also for the QSAC monitoring which takes place in November. Mr. Molnar stated his main objective in contacting the Business Administrator in Cranford, was to find out if he received a significant group of candidates from advertising the position. Mr. Molnar stated Cranford said they received resumes and applications from several prospective candidates. He stated he will find out who Cranford posted the position with. Ms. Hardiman stated once the posting appears in the newspaper, the opening will be spread by word of mouth by Superintendents and Business Administrators in other districts. T. Coughlin, Fords, asked if the current job description will be modified. Mr. Molnar stated the Board is seeking public input regarding the job description. Ms. Acquisto stated the current job description was modified using input from the public. J. Cheslow, Colonia, stated NJSBA offers free services which the district should take advantage of. She stated there are worksheets to develop criteria and interview questions. She stated NJSBA will also perform reference checks which the Board, having no interview experience, are not trained to do. Ms. Cheslow again stressed that NJSBA has worksheets to help develop criteria which is used in districts across the country. Mr. Molnar stated he will contact NJSBA for their free services. He stated the Board will be referring back to the previous Superintendent search which was conducted by NJSBA. Ms. Cheslow reminded the Board that the last search was conducted five years ago and the criteria which was in effect five years ago is now out of date. Ms. Cheslow stated there are serious problems in the district presently which did not exist five years ago. Ms. Cheslow noted that one school district surveyed several different groups for criteria, including students. Ms. Cheslow read the criteria formulated in Clifton for a “perfect” superintendent. Mr. Miloscia asked the size of the Cranford and Clifton districts and the salary for the superintendent. Mr. Molnar stated Cranford consists of seven schools. Mr. Molnar stated he does not have the salary information. Ms. Cheslow stated she does not know how many schools are in the Clifton school district. A response from a member of the public stated he believes Clifton has approximately 7,500 students with the same social and economic breakdown as Woodbridge. L. McGeehan stated when the Board is seeking a candidate, they need to take into account the needs of all the constituents that the Superintendent will serve. She stated the individual needs to work with the Board of Education, be a leader of the district’s administrative personnel, they need to be a leader of our teachers. Ms. McGeehan further stated the public needs to have some respect, so the candidate needs to have credibility on the public side as well as student side. She stated when you form the Committee consider having an interview slate which represents the community, including Board of Education members, staff member, an administrator, as well as a parent or community leader since all would bring a different perspective forward. Ms. McGeehan stated she feels the Committee was formulated to pacify the public. She further stated she feels the candidate has already been selected. Mr. Yuhasz stated he is honored to serve on the Superintendent Search Committee. He stated he has a New Jersey State Principal Certification, a New Jersey Supervisor’s Certificate and has worked in Central Office for many years. Mr. Yuhasz stated Brian Molnar brought up valid points to the Committee including wanting to include the community. Mr. Yuhasz made it clear to the public that he has been in education for 30 years and is aware of the problems and needs.
251 May 8, 2008 Ms. Leidner stated the Committee formed by Brian Molnar will facilitate the process, not pick the next Superintendent. Ms. Leidner stated the entire Board will be interviewing the candidates. Ms. McGeehan responded by adding she is hopeful that members of the public will be allowed to be involved in the interview process. G. Seminario stated she agrees with what Ms. McGeehan stated regarding having a diverse group of people involved in the process. She stated many people were unable to attend tonight’s meeting but she had a list with her, which she gave to Mr. Molnar, with their names. Ms. Seminario asked if any information will be made available tonight that she could take back to the people who were unable to attend. Mr. Molnar stated tonight the Board is listening to all public input and everything will be taken into consideration. Mr. Molnar stated when speaking with the Cranford school district, he was informed that they involved too many people from the public resulting in the process becoming “clumsy”. Ms. Seminario asked if any other members of the Board have done research to see how committees have been formed. Mr. Yuhasz stated he feels the course Mr. Molnar is attempting to do by involving the community is important. Mr. Yuhasz stated one issue in the process is personnel issues which must be kept confidential. Ms. Cheslow stated the public understands that personnel records are confidential. Ms. Cheslow stated, each candidate would be made aware that they are going to be interviewed by a Committee made up of Board members, community members, teachers, etc., and agree to that going in. She stated the people involved in that part of the process would also need to agree not to disclose any information so confidentiality should not prevent anyone from sitting on the Committee. Mr. Yuhasz clarified he is not saying prevent. Ms. Cheslow stated the public has been cut out of things in the past due to confidentiality. Ms. McGeehan asked for Mr. Molnar to repeat the Committee members. Mr. Molnar stated Ms. Leidner, Ms. Acquisto and Mr. Yuhasz will serve on the Committee. Ms. McGeehan asked, at this point, what has the Committee been charged to do. Mr. Molnar stated the Committee will take the input and decipher the information. Mr. Molnar stated some steps are in place including a survey to the parents and staff. He stated they will be discussing the advertisement procedures. Ms. Leidner stated the main purpose of tonight’s meeting is to get the public’s thought on the criteria they would like to see in the next Superintendent. Ms. McGeehan stated she would like to see a doctorate, someone who has been in a central administrative position, and has had classroom experience. She stressed that the educational experience is paramount. A member of the public asked if the survey being sent home would also be available on-line. Ms. Leidner responded the survey form will be available on line. A follow up question asked what the educational philosophy in the district is since it was referred to earlier in the meeting. Ms. Leidner stated she does not have it handy to respond to the question.
252 May 8, 2008 As a follow up, the individual from the public stated she feels educational philosophy is a complicated issue. A Colonia resident asked with such a huge undertaking, what kind of a timeline are you giving yourselves. She asked if there will be an interim appointment. Mr. Molnar explained, with QSAC quickly approaching, we need a Superintendent in place. Mr. Molnar said the Board does not want to rush the process, but time is important. Ms. Leidner reiterated Mr. Molnar’s comments. The resident stated the Board has to give an initial timeline, even if it needs to be adjusted later. She stated this is a huge decision by the Board. Ms. Hardiman stated the first priority is taking the input from everyone to compile and decipher. The resident asked if once the information is compiled will you then be able to give a timeline. Mr. Molnar explained tonight we are gathering the information in order to place an ad in the newspaper which is step 1. As a follow up, she asked if the Board is considering an interim Superintendent. Mr. Molnar and the entire Board responded, yes. Ms. Hardiman stated the Board has appointed an interim Superintendent in the past. Another resident clarified that the Board seemed to be giving a timeline of approximately three months to conduct the Superintendent search. She suggested, rather than saving the taxpayers money, the Board consider hiring a project management professional. She stated it is important that the individual demonstrates background in public relations. H. (Donato), Iselin, thanked the Board for having the open forum. She reviewed the qualifications which the public suggested for the Superintendent; chief executive officer, financial person, compassion and educational experience. She stated based on all the qualifications, the Board and public are looking for a “Mary Poppins”. She stated she would like to see someone who has run a business, taught in the schools, has some financial background and is knowledgeable about Woodbridge Township. M.(Lakowski), Colonia, asked if the survey could be made available in several different languages such as, English, Spanish, Arabic. She agreed that the Superintendent should be someone who came up through the ranks in Woodbridge Township with good communications skills with children, staff and the community. She stated she strongly feels a doctorate should be mandatory. D. (Wertz), Iselin, thanked the Board for their hard work and dedication and for allowing parents to express their wishes and concerns regarding the next Superintendent. He asked the content of the survey which will be distributed. He asked if the survey has been developed yet. Ms. Acquisto responded it has not. Ms. Acquisto stated the Board will review the comments from tonight’s meeting prior to putting the survey together. Mr. (Wertz) asked what the goal of the survey is and will there be a synopsis of the survey shared with the public. Ms. Acquisto stated yes. Mr. (Wertz) made the following recommendations for the survey: be clear in the way the questions are asked regarding educational background that you’re seeking. He stated the clearer the survey, the easier it will be to break down the responses. He stated he is curious as to why the Board would not
253 May 8, 2008 consider making the doctorate a requirement. He further stated as an educator, that is very important to him and he would need the rationale if the Board does not require a doctorate. He stated if you’re seeking parent involvement, you would need to be very clear on what you would like parent involvement to be. He stated, as a parent, he would like to see a parent who is not a Board member sit on the Committee. He further stated he feels a teacher and an individual in the business community should be on the Committee. Mr. Wertz, suggested the Board contact Gail Early. He stated he would be very interested in serving on the Committee. A member of the public stated what a perfect candidate the previous speaker was to establish a survey to go home. She stated he had a lot of experience with surveys. She asked if the Committee would be open to someone who could bring experience to the table. Ms. Acquisto asked if the four member Committee was formed because by law, it has to be established that way. Mr. Molnar stated following normal practice, three Board members are placed on each Committee. Ms. Acquisto stated she is concerned as to whether or not the Committee should be expanded. Ms. Leidner stated the Bylaws state that the Committee is allowed to invite a member of the public in to one of their meetings. Ms. Acquisto stated a member of the public cannot consecutively be invited to sit in on a Board Committee meeting. Ms. Acquisto suggested a different kind of meeting rather than a Committee meeting. A member of the public stated she was never aware that a non Board member could sit in on Committee meetings. Ms. Leidner stated in order to attend a Committee meeting, you have to be invited by a Board member. As a follow up, a question was asked if that ever happened, to which several Board members responded, yes. J.Cheslow thanked the Board for setting up the meeting, stating that this alone has gone far beyond any involvement the public has had in the past. Ms. Cheslow stated other districts have set up “Advisory Committees” as opposed to “Board Committees”, which is something the Board might look into. Ms. Cheslow commented on the current job description stating she would like to see educational experience as number one. Ms. Cheslow stated some items listed in the job description, although they fall under the Superintendent’s supervision peripherally, they are not a direct responsibility of the Superintendent and suggested they be revised. Ms. Cheslow stated she would like curriculum implementation added to the job description. She further stated the next Superintendent should have an ability to motivate people and someone who can address special needs children whether it be gifted children or special children. Ms. Cheslow would like to have someone who has the ability to head off a crisis and strong leadership skills. She stated she would like an individual who is assertive and decisive. She also would like someone committed to parent involvement. Ms. Acquisto asked for a copy of the list of qualifications Ms. Cheslow read. V. Romanienko, Woodbridge, stated she feels a project coordinator should not be hired due to the cost factor. Ms. Romanienko stated she feels the new Superintendent needs to be experienced in finances. She further stated she feels anyone with principal experience has financial experience. Ms. Romanienko commended the Board for the positive experience in opening up the doors of communication with the public on this issue. Jeff B., Colonia, suggested the Board dedicate a site on the web-page to update the pubic on the progress of the search.
254 May 8, 2008 T. Coughlin stated the Board needs to find someone with vision, experience with a large district and new ideas to move the school district forward. K. Cozzola stated in the past, she feels parents’ suggestions have been received poorly, however, she feels that Woodbridge has changed tremendously. Ms. Cozzola stated she feels the Board needs to look outside the district for someone who has experience running a district similar to Woodbridge, following the steps from teacher to administrator to central administrator. Ms. Cozzola commended Ms. Rotella for her tremendous knowledge regarding curriculum. She stressed the importance of looking at individuals who have served as Superintendent of a district. A member of the public asked what the procedures will be to get the surveys to the parents and children. Mr. Molnar asked how the survey was distributed for the last Superintendent’s search. Ms. Leidner stated for the previous search, the survey was sent home to the parents through the children. Ms. Leidner agreed with Ms. Acquisto that the survey be placed on the web-site. She stated the survey will also be distributed to staff members for their input. The concern was raised about surveys being brought home by students, noting that several parents may not receive the survey from their child. She asked the Board to consider placing the survey in with other mailings, noting that high schools will soon be mailing home information on finals. Mr. Small agreed with mailing the survey to parents and residents rather than sending them home with students. Ms. Acquisto stated parents will also be able to contact the main offices of the schools or go on-line to obtain the survey. A questioned was raised regarding the timeline, noting it is now mid-may. She asked when an interim Superintendent would be appointed. Ms. Leidner responded most likely at the June meeting to begin July 1st. Ms. Leidner reminded the public that the Board has not formally accepted Mr. Smith’s resignation, A questioned was asked if the interim Superintendent will be an existing employee or someone from the outside. Mr. Yuhasz stated the interim Superintendent would be discussed during a Committee meeting. A point was made that appointing someone within the district could possibly overload the individual with the duties of the current position as well as the additional duties of the Superintendent’s office. She stated the salary of the new Superintendent should be based on the experience the individual brings to the district. A suggestion was made to have the surveys available at the upcoming spring concerts. She stated she feels the PTO’s would step up to assist with the mailings of the surveys. Ms. Acquisto asked if anyone present sat on a Committee during the last Superintendent’s search. Ms. Acquisto asked if the Committee found New Jersey School Boards helpful in conducting the search. T. Coughlin stated New Jersey School Boards formed a focus group with members of the public. She stated NJSBA asked the focus group questions regarding what they were looking for in a Superintendent. Ms. Leidner stated there were two groups, the focus group of the community leaders and the focus group of staff. She stated following the initial interviews, candidates were picked to return for a second interview. At that time the two focus groups met with the potential Superintendent. Ms. Leidner stated in the
255 May 8, 2008 beginning of the process a meeting was held in Town Hall with the community present to discuss who would conduct the search. Ms. Leidner stated there was a lot of public input in the last search. P. Ballotta, Woodbridge, stated he supports the requirement of a doctorate for the Superintendent. He stated he feels the doctorate is important because it shows that someone who starts something is able to finish it. Mr. Ballotta stated by sending the survey with a newsletter to the parents, several interested residents who may no longer have children in the district will not receive it. Mr. Ballotta suggested piggybacking the mailing of surveys with a township mailing. He stressed the importance of not reaching only parents, but all taxpayers in the district. Mr. Garley stated a survey was conducted in the police department which they piggy backed with the township. Mr. Ballotta stated the first year he served as Board member a Superintendent’s search was conducted. He stated at that time the Board attorney determined that a Committee could be formed with members of the public at the discretion of the Board. He further stated that at that time 10-15 members of the public were allowed to participate in the search, understanding that no more than 4 Board members can sit on the Committee. Mr. Ballotta stated at that time, the Board hired New Jersey School Boards to conduct the search. Mr. Ballotta advised the Board to take advantage of the free information provided by New Jersey School Boards. Ms. Cozzola, stated an administrator faces many challenges and feels a doctorate is a necessary requirement. Ms Cozzola stated the district needs a leader who can be a leader. She stated she did not sit on the Committee for the last Superintendent search but was involved in the initial discussions where the parents stated the number one requirement for the criteria was educational experience and that was not what the appointment was based on. She stated public input is important but it must also be carried out and not disregarded. Ms. Romanienko stated she does not want to see someone appointed who feels they are entitled to the position. Ms. Leidner stated she doesn’t disagree with Ms. Cozzola regarding the doctorate. She further stated Mr. Smith did not have a doctorate but a business background. Ms. Leidner stated during Mr. Smith’s tenure as Superintendent of Schools, many changes for the good were made in this district; the passing of the bond referendum, the passing of budgets, the award winning curriculum. She further stated, although he didn’t hold a doctorate or have an educational background he accomplished many wonderful things. Ms. Hardiman stated Mr. Smith brought much to the district. She stated he knew parents and students by their names. Ms. Hardiman stated during the last Superintendent search many applicants did not hold a doctorate degree. Ms. Acquisto made it clear that the job description states a doctorate is preferred. G. Seminario, expressed concerns regarding the teachers having to answer to Mr. Smith as Superintendent, with no educational background. Mr. Garley stated the Assistant Superintendent in charge of curriculum is very knowledgeable. Ms. Cheslow stated she feels Mr. Smith did a fantastic job, acknowledging he was very much involved. She stated classroom experience is very important for a Superintendent. Mr. Molnar thanked everyone for attending and expressing their opinions. He stated the Board will take all of the input received tonight into consideration. Mr. Molnar stated the Board will continue to keep the public informed of the progress. There being no further business, and on a motion by Ms. Hardiman, seconded by Ms. Leidner and carried, the meeting adjourned at approximately 8:20 p.m.
256 May 8, 2008
I, Dennis DeMarino, Business Administrator and Secretary of the Board of Education, Township of Woodbridge, hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and exact copy of the Minutes taken at the Special Board of Education meeting held May 8, 2008.
Dennis DeMarino d
June 3, 2008